I'd like to warmly welcome you all here to the House of Representatives Alcove at Parliament House.
It is my great pleasure to launch in Australia The Community Good research report on the Social Impact of the PNG LNG project in the Hela region.
I want to congratulate the contributors on the report.
In particular, I'd like to acknowledge the leadership of the seven Papua New Guinean churches who took the initiative to launch the report in Port Moresby on 17 May.
I would also like to acknowledge the vital contribution made by Ambassador Bogari to PNG’s Church Partnership Program.
The Community Good report offers a valuable perspective on the current and likely impact of the LNG project on the Hela region, where most of the work is taking place.
The report highlights what is going well in Hela, in particular the growth in business and employment opportunities, better access to health and education, and a reduction in serious crime.
It also examines where improvements can be made.
For example, the need for greater transparency to resolve landowner issues, the challenges of sharing the benefits, responding to demographic changes to communities and managing the impact of sudden cash windfalls.
Australians are familiar with the opportunities and challenges that come with a commodities boom.
But it’s fair to say that in a deeply traditional society such as in Hela province, the community there is facing change on a scale and speed that’s hard to comprehend here in Australia.
In essence the report picks up on a broader challenge in PNG – which is how to make the country’s resources boom work for its ordinary people.
PNG’s most immediate challenge is poverty.
About 40 per cent of Papua New Guineans live in poverty.
And you can't address poverty without income.
PNG’s rich resources provide a historic opportunity for the government and people of PNG to generate income.
The report shows that we are seeing some of that in Hela Province.
But an enormously profitable resources venture doesn't help everyone.
We need to remain focused on those who miss out and those who remain vulnerable.
Australia’s Development Assistance Program which has been developed in partnership with the PNG Government is supporting the PNG Government’s own development priorities, concentrating on health and HIV/AIDS, education, transport and infrastructure, and law and justice.
Australia is helping to drive a revolution in education and by working to abolish school fees more children are going to school and staying at school.
We have helped improve food security and rural productivity by maintaining more than 2000 km of national roads and highways.
Access to justice is another fundamental challenge in Papua New Guinea, including Hela Province.
It is very difficult to get judges to move to the provinces without housing entitlements.
In Tari, in the Hela region, we have funded significant renovations to the courthouse, registry and magistrate’s house.
A magistrate has now been appointed.
There is also a five-year plan for construction in Tari consisting of housing for a judge and staff.
Mendi will have a new court house, judge’s house and staff houses, from 2012.
The Community Good singles out women and children as vulnerable groups during this time of change.
All of Australia’s development programs in PNG place women at the centre of planning and implementation.
For example, Australia’s assistance to the law and justice sector has seen a large increase in the number of female village court magistrates recruited and trained.
I had the great privilege to see this system of justice in action during a visit to PNG last year.
The Community Good calls for close co-ordination between the PNG Government, the private sector and civil society.
Australia recognises the vital role of civil society – such as NGOs and church groups – in PNG.
Their importance cannot be overstated.
For example, churches provide about half of all health and education services in PNG and in many parts of the country they are the only source of such services.
PNG is working to manage more effectively the revenue streams from resources projects.
Its ability to improve health, law and order and education is intrinsically linked to PNG’s ability to manage sustainably its national economic growth.
PNG was the seventh-fastest-growing country in the world in 2011.
Last year sealed a decade of uninterrupted expansion and it is projected to grow a further eight per cent this year.
The resources industry has made a massive contribution to PNG’s growth - boosted, of course, by the construction of the $16 billion LNG project.
These developments have the potential to transform the PNG economy and provide a basis for a better future for all the people of Papua New Guinea.
The decisions PNG makes now will shape the sort of country that it will become in ten, 20 and 50 years' time.
There have been resource booms in PNG in the past which have not resulted in the societal change we hope to see from the LNG project.
And to be sure Australia knows from its own experience that managing an economy fuelled by its resources sector is not a simple task.
PNG has worked hard to realise the societal benefit from the revenue flows associated with the LNG project coming on stream.
Australia’s been helping the PNG government design and establish PNG’s first sovereign wealth fund, to ensure revenue from the LNG project will be used for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans.
I hope The Community Good report helps broaden an informed and constructive debate about resources and how best they can be shared.
This is a time of great opportunity for our nearest neighbour and close friend – Papua New Guinea.
It’s a critical moment for the ordinary people of PNG.
For the Government.
And Australia and PNG will continue to work together in a constructive spirit towards a more prosperous PNG where the benefits of the resources boom are shared by all.
I hope you enjoy the rest of this morning’s event and good luck with the workshop at ANU.
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